In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, Congress leader Jaya Thakur challenged the third extension of tenure granted to Enforcement Directorate (ED) director Sanjay Kumar Mishra, claiming that repeated extensions are detrimental to the democratic process.
Moreover, the court alleged that the central government had abused its enforcement agencies in order to destroy the basic structure of democracy.
According to the petitioner, the impugned extension of tenure of Respondent No.2 (Mishra) is destroying the democratic process of our country, which is why the present writ petition has been filed by the petitioner, which may be allowed in the interest of justice, according to the plea, which was filed by attorneys Varun Thakur and Shashank Ratnoo.
The Congress leader stated that the top court had passed a specific order that no further extensions would be granted to Mishra, however, the Centre granted him a second extension from November 17, 2021, to November 17, 2022, after which she filed a petition for which a notice was sent.
According to the plea, during the pendency of the writ petition, respondent no.1 granted a third extension from November 18, 2022, to November 18, 2023, to respondent no.2, which demonstrates a disregard for the rule of law on the part of respondent no.1.
A day after Mishra was given a fresh one-year extension as the head of the anti-money laundering agency, Justice S K Kaul recused himself from hearing the appeals challenging the amended law allowing an extension of up to five years for the director of the Enforcement Directorate.
Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jaya Thakur, as well as TMC members Mahua Moitra and Saket Gokhale, had filed petitions for a hearing.
An official order issued by the Union government has extended Mishra’s contract by one year, marking the third extension for the Indian Revenue Service officer in the position.
According to the government notification, the 1984 batch of IRS officers will remain in office until November 18, 2023.
In November 2018, Mishra, 62, was appointed director of the ED for a period of two years. His two-year appointment letter was later retrospectively modified by the central government by order dated November 13, 2020.
Under an ordinance issued by the government last year, the tenure of the chiefs of the ED and CBI could be extended up to three years beyond the mandated term of two years.
According to the Centre, on September 5, some political leaders challenged the extension granted to the ED chief and the amended law allowing such extensions up to five years. The Centre called them “pressure tactics.”
As a result, the apex court-appointed senior advocate K V Viswanathan as amicus curiae to assist it in handling the case.
The top court requested responses to the pleas on August 2 this year from the Centre, the Central Vigilance Commission, and others.
The petition filed by Congress leader Surjewala challenges the amendments made by the government to the apex court’s judgments on fixed tenure in the Vineet Narayan and Common Cause cases.
This issue has been the subject of a number of appeals, most of which challenge the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Act, 2021, which stipulates the extension of the term of the director of the ED for a further five years.
In November 2021, the Centre extended Mishra’s tenure at the anti-money laundering agency by a year to November 18, 2022, days after bringing ordinances allowing the ED and CBI directors to hold office for a period of five years.
The apex court, in its September 8 last year judgement on a petition filed by NGO ‘Common Cause’, stated that only after the committee constituted under Section 25 (a) of the CVC Act has recorded reasons for granting a reasonable extension to facilitate the completion of ongoing investigations can a reasonable extension be granted.
It had upheld the Centre’s right to extend Mishra’s tenure as Director of the ED, but clarified that extensions for officers after the age of retirement should only be granted in exceptional situations.
Mishra was also informed by the top court that he would not be granted any further extensions.